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Managing a move: insurance holding company with nationwide ties shifts headquarters from Morrilton to Conway.

SUPPOSE YOU ARE THE PRESident and chief executive officer of a growing insurance holding holding company based in Morrilton.

The company is the broker of record for ARCO Petroleum Products Co., Chevron USA Products Co., Getty Petroleum Corp., Mobil Oil Corp. and Shell Oil Co. You have a subsidiary that was named as Quality Supplier of the Year for 1991 by Shell Oil Co.

After eight years, it's time to take the company to the next level. Now what do you do?

The answer is obvious: You move to Conway.

At least, that is the obvious answer for Stephen L. Strange, president and CEO of American Management Corp.

Why does AMC, with clients nationwide, call Arkansas home?

Strange, a California native and graduate of Hendrix College, says that both the work ethic of the people and the state's central location make Arkansas an excellent choice for a base of operations. For this reason, he chose to purchase the former Webb-Gordon Agency of Morrilton in 1984, in order to found AMC.

What, then, makes Conway any more appealing than Morrilton?

Strange points out it is not a matter of disliking or being disappointed by Morrilton or its residents. He appreciates "everything they've done" and views the move to Conway as strictly "a business decision."

Although he feels indebted to Morrilton, he also senses Conway has more to offer to AMC's future.

First, Conway features Hendrix College and the University of Central Arkansas. Strange says an advantage AMC did not have in Morrilton was "the ability to work with the business offices."

Second, Conway has, due in part to the colleges, a larger work pool, important to a company that has expanded from eight employees to nearly 90 since 1984.

In addition, Conway is closer than Morrilton to Little Rock Regional Airport. Proximity to the airport allows easier access to AMC by its clients' representatives and becomes increasingly important as AMC continues to broaden its nationwide scope.

Why wouldn't a move to Little Rock, which has colleges, a large work pool and the airport, be just as good?

"The biggest thing |the move to Conway~ does," Strange says, "is keep our staff."

AMC would lose more employees by moving 45 miles to Little Rock than it does by moving only 15 miles to Conway. By keeping the same employees, AMC doesn't have to spend time and money hiring and training new workers.

Strange also says clients "like to see small towns."

He adds, though, that despite being small, "Conway is one of the most progressive cities in the state."

Despite all of the positive aspects of the move, Strange realizes it will not be problem-free. For example, he already has been working closely with Conway Mayor David Kinley to try to keep AMC from creating a parking problem downtown.

More important, though, Strange wants AMC to fit in well with the other downtown companies, retail and commercial alike.

He says that a number of local retailers already have given him words of encouragement or shown him gestures of goodwill. Therefore, he says he finds it is very important to reciprocate such enthusiasm and promote an attitude of cooperation among the downtown businesses.

He feels that in order to do this, any problems that arise should be dealt with "openly and accurately."

"We're hoping to have good community relations, period," Strange says. "We'll |only~ be as successful as our neighbors."

After a scant six weeks of renovation, AMC's more than 40,000 SF of office and storage space (easily enough room, Strange says, to comfortably accommodate up to 150 employees) opens for business November 30.
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Title Annotation:American Management Corp.
Author:Lombardi, Carl
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Nov 30, 1992
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